Clause 58 - Transfer schemes between trusts

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 12:00 pm, 23rd September 2021

As we have discussed, clauses 39 and 40 make it clear that the Secretary of State continues to have the ability to create new NHS trusts. Clause 58 is an integral part of ensuring that the NHS has the correct provider landscape necessary to deliver integrated care and to respond to emerging priorities.

The clause allows NHS England to make a transfer scheme relating to NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts. Such a transfer scheme can provide for the transfer of property, rights, staff and liabilities from one NHS provider to another to ensure that the right resources can, when necessary, be transferred to support the delivery of services across the NHS.

NHS trusts and NHS FTs will be able to apply jointly to NHS England to make transfer schemes under the clause. NHS England, as the national regulator, may grant the application for the transfer scheme if it is satisfied that all necessary steps to prepare for the scheme have been undertaken. The process can ensure, for example, that all transfer schemes are in the best interests of patients and represent value for money for the taxpayer. Transfer schemes for NHS providers are crucial to ensuring that we have a flexible, adaptable provider landscape to deliver the best care to our patients.

Clause 59 introduces schedule 8 to the Bill, which amends chapter 5A of the National Health Service Act 2006, which relates to trust special administrators. Schedule 8 outlines the changes to the process and authorisation for the appointment of trust special administrators, including the reporting mechanisms.

A trust special administrator is appointed to take charge of the trust, at which point the trust board of directors—in the case of NHS foundation trusts, the governors—are suspended. Trust special administrators may be appointed by NHS England to exercise the functions of a chairman and directors of an NHS trust, or the governors, chairman and directors of a foundation trust, where that is necessary to secure sustainable and high-quality services and where other interventions to secure financial or clinical sustainability have been exhausted.

Schedule 8 co-outlines the changes to the process and authorisation for the appointment of trust special administrators, including the reporting mechanisms. The changes are part of transitioning the provider-based functions of Monitor and the NHS TDA into NHS England, and it does not represent a substantial change in policy approach. It also transfers delegated duties placed on the NHS TDA to NHS England in relation to the appointment of a trust special administrator to an NHS trust. It also transfers functions of Monitor to NHS England in relation to the appointment of a trust special administrator for NHS FTs.

The administrators are to be appointed by NHS England to make recommendations about actions to secure sustainable and high-quality services. NHS England must appoint a trust special administrator if required to do so by the Care Quality Commission. Otherwise, it may make the order to appoint only if it considers that to be in the interests of the health service and if the Secretary of State has given their approval.

The process remains broadly the same under schedule 8, giving NHS England the appropriate role in relation to NHS trusts and foundation trusts. However, one change I draw to the attention of the Committee is in relation to NHS trusts: both NHS England and the Secretary of State will receive the administrators’ report, which will state which action, if any, either is to take. The schedule confers a shared duty on NHS England and the Secretary of State to consult one another before taking any decision on action.

The provisions enable NHS England to discharge its responsibility for the support and oversight of NHS trusts and foundation trusts, including taking on Monitor and the NHS TDA’s regulatory and inspection powers in relation to such trusts. They provide transparency to the appointment process and its reporting mechanisms, and clarity to the system in securing and delivering sustainable and high-quality services when the trust providing them has been placed into administration. I commend the clauses and the schedule to the Committee.

Government amendment 15 will ensure that integrated care boards are consulted when the Care Quality Commission requires NHS England to make a trust special administration order and ensures that the process properly accounts for all future commissioning arrangements involving those boards. Proposed new section 65B(4)(b)(ii) introduced under paragraph 2 of schedule 8 retains the existing requirement for the Care Quality Commission to consult commissioners of services from the NHS trust in question. The commission considered that to be appropriate. However, it does not account for situations where, in future, an NHS trust may provide services in an integrated care board area without formally providing services to that integrated care board. For example, where an NHS trust ends up spanning two integrated care board areas, those boards may decide to have a lead commissioner of services from an NHS trust. The purpose of the amendment is to put beyond any doubt that any integrated care boards that might be impacted by a trust special administration order being triggered for an NHS trust should be consulted as part of the formal process.

Similarly, Government amendment 16 will ensure that integrated care boards are consulted when NHS England decides to make a trust special administration order and that the process properly accounts for all future commissioning arrangements involving ICBs. Proposed new section 65B(5)(b), introduced by paragraph 2 of schedule 8, retains the requirement for NHS England to consult commissioners of services from the NHS trust in question, if

“NHS England considers it appropriate”.

However, that again does not account for situations where, in future, an NHS trust may provide services in an ICB area without formally providing services to that ICB. For example, where an NHS trust may end up spanning two integrated care board areas, those boards may decide to have a lead commissioner of services from a trust. The purpose of the amendment is to put beyond any doubt that any integrated care boards that might be impacted by a trust special administration order being triggered for an NHS trust should be consulted as part of that formal process.

Amendments 15 and 16 ensure that the trust special administration process reflects the role the ICBs will play and the different levels of autonomy and status between different NHS trusts and foundation trusts under the present system, putting the need for calibration and consultation at the heart of the measure. For those reasons, I ask the Committee to support the amendments.